Front Street in Cuyahoga Falls readies for grand opening as small businesses prepare shops

CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio - Front Street in Cuyahoga Falls is shaping up for its 2018 re-opening, while small business owners prepare their stores for a re-energized downtown.

The main street through the city's oldest business is opening to two-way traffic after 40 years as a pedestrian mall that never flourished, like many such malls across the U.S. Akron-based H.R. Gray has led the $10 million Downtown Transformation Project, with Hammontree & Associates of North Canton managing project design, surveying and landscape architecture.

Although no official date is set for the street opening, it's expected to take place by February, said Planning Director Fred Guerra, which isn't far off the Jan. 1 date projected last March.

So far, Front Street has been paved and reconfigured to allow for bicycles and pedestrian sitting areas, new curbs are in place and way-finding signage is posted. Parking garages have been renovated, and benches,  street lighting and waste cans installed. Parking spaces still need painted but landscaping and brick-work are complete. Fountains will soon be constructed.

Parts of Front and Second streets have already been transformed to two-way, although Front Street through downtown remains closed while construction is ongoing.

Cuyahoga Falls' Front Street Mall could open to vehicles in 9 months

To help draw businesses to downtown, an historic district has been identified from Stow Avenue to Chestnut Boulevard, while the area between Stow Ave. and the pavilion near Broad Boulevard is eligible for the national register of historic places.

Keith Saffles was recently awarded Ohio Historic Preservation Credits to leverage private redevelopment of the Wayne Agency Building at 2146-2162 on Front Street. Saffles is restoring four retail units in the building to their original decor, with decorative tin ceilings and oak floors.

"We'll have all new storefronts but we'll keep the old and give it some love," Saffles said.

By January, the Yum Yum Sweet Shop will open there, which Saffles owns with his mother, Sandy. The two will close their shop in Peninsula, where the village's restrictions kept them from offering services they wanted to provide, such as packaging candy on site.

"We were looking for a spot for the candy store and we wanted to be in the Falls so we're pretty excited," he said. "Here we'll be able to do everything we wanted and be more creative with what we have to offer."

By that he means installing a large cotton candy machine in the center of the store that can make 10-12 different flavors of the spun-sugar treat.

With more than 3,000 products, the store will stock many varieties of retro candies as well as modern treats, such as 50 flavors of Jelly Belly candy. Soda pop will be available in the bottle, including Akron's own NORKA brand soda. Yum Yum also will offer candy by the pound, chocolates and saltwater taffy.

"I'm always on the hunt for more retro stuff," Sandy Saffles said. "My goal is to make memories for the little kids like I had when I was young, and to bring back memories for the old people."

Keith Saffles was awarded Ohio Historic Preservation Credits to redevelop the Wayne Agency Building on Front Street. Saffles is restoring four retail units to their original decor, which will house Yum Yum Sweet Shop, Pav's Creamery, Good Co. Salon and a fourth business.Jennifer Conn, Akron reporter, 

Restoring the building to its original look and feel dovetails well with the vibe Sandy envisions for the candy shop.

"It's going to be like walking back in time; it's going to bring back memories" she said. "I want people to be happy when they come into my store and happy when they leave. Cuyahoga Falls is going to love what they get. "

Next to the candy store will be Pav's Creamery, which has a 50-year history of making custard, ice cream and frozen yogurt in the Akron area.

"Mom's been calling this the sweetest corner in Cuyahoga Falls," Keith Saffles said.

Good Co. Salon is also planned to open there, which will be 29-year-old Emily Anderson's first brick and mortar establishment. A Falls native, Anderson has been a beautician for a decade and wanted her own upscale salon in her hometown.

"I'm giving this my all," she said. "It's my dream and I'm going for it."

A fourth tenant has yet to be selected but Saffles hopes to draw a complementary business, such as a specialty toy store.

Earlier this year Crave Cantina, serving Latin-style food, opened its doors at 2097 Front Street.

To market the revitalized business district, the city of Cuyahoga Falls is working with the Heritage Ohio Main Street Program. The program works to help communities revitalize historic or traditional commercial areas through historic preservation.

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